An Asexual Perspective on the play IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT (Part 3)

In Part 1 I introduced the play and its protagonist, and in Part 2 I focused on Evie’s relationship with her new boyfriend Raul. Here, I get to the heart of why I think this play sends a harmful message to people who are sex-averse or otherwise prefer not having sex. In other words, I think this play supports compulsory sexuality.

The playwright discusses the play in this video. I recommend watching the whole video, but if you can’t/don’t want to, here are the quotes which I wish to discuss (emphasis is mine):

But the irony of that is that she is so terrified of intimacy that she has never been in a real relationship herself…

… And she’s happy in her own little bubble until she meets this guy, who comes to her first as a client, but then she falls in love with him, and he really challenges her to get out of her shell and get her from her Warcraft world, and to be with him, and to be intimate, you know, go past those boundaries that she set on herself

…I want them to come away with the feeling that whoever they are, and whatever they feel, whatever their own desires are, um, whatever they want for themselves, in terms of relationships, in terms of sex, in terms of, I guess, life, is that it’s okay to want that, and that it’s also okay, and I also want them to understand that sometimes the ideas we have about ourselves are often not based on what we want or what we feel, but are based on fear, fear of trying something out, fear of being different, fear of trying to push back against the boundaries that you’ve set for yourself. So I hope that they have a good time, and that they are kinder to themselves when they leave.

Somehow, when the playwright is talking about people having to get over their fear of trying something different and pushing against their boundaries, I don’t think she is talking about Raul challenging himself by entering a sexless romantic relationship.

Having seen the play, I can tell you that ‘intimacy’ is just a euphemism for ‘sex’. Evie seems perfectly fine with every kind of non-sexual intimacy (for example, cuddling) which is addressed in the play.

The playwright talks about how “sometimes the ideas we have about ourselves are often not based on what we want or what we feel, but are based on fear.” First of all, fear is a feeling, so I don’t get how something which is based on fear is not based on a feeling. Second of all – and this is a point which I hammer again and again in this post – is that the playwright implies here that Evie actually wants sex and feels a sexual impulse, and that she is mistakenly basing her idea about herself on “fear” rather than her feelings (which somehow don’t include fear) … YET the playwright never bothers to actually depict Evie wanting or feeling inclined toward sex (until the very last minute of the play – I’ll get to that later). For 99.9% of the play, Evie’s feelings about sex seemed to be entirely fear, repulsion, or, just maybe, indifference.

In the version of the play I saw, Evie does not have a single reason to have sex which is not based on fear. The only reasons, as far as I could tell, for Evie to have sex are a) because of peer pressure (embodied by Kitty), b) because she’s scared of losing the new boyfriend she likes and c) because she considers herself broken for not wanting sex. Do any of these seem like a good reason to have sex?

Again, I would interpret this very differently if Evie were shown as having any reason to have sex which is not based on fear – such as experiencing sexual desire, or seeking thrills, or curiosity, or wanting to make a baby or … something positive.

I am sure the playwright could have written a very entertaining scene where Evie has a supremely unrealistic sex-fantasy, and then her attempts to make that fantasy a reality with Raul are sabotaged by her insecurities and lack of experience. Such a scene would have indicated that Evie feels sexual desire.

Given that the play offers no other reason for Evie to want sex, I must conclude that the playwright thinks either that a) everybody automatically wants sex (and thus asexuals like myself, and many of the sex-averse people who read this blog, aren’t real people), so there is no point in showing why Evie would want sex (aside from peer pressure and self-esteem issues) or b) peer pressure and a sense of being broken are excellent reasons to ‘push against’ sexual boundaries one has put up for oneself. Both of those thoughts are toxic. If anyone who has seen/read the play can think of a non-toxic explanation, please comment.

Yet another real life example of a sex-averse geeky young woman who has had boyfriends is Queenie, and she’s written about how the assumption that everybody is going to have sex has created trouble for her romantic pursuits. A passage from that post:

What made everything more confusing is that, when I was a teenager, my mum gave me a lot of those oh-no-you’re-hitting-puberty-and-you’re-getting-all-these-weird-feelings-and-growing-hair-in-awkward-places books, which would inevitably say, “Don’t have sex if you don’t want to. Just say no.” The thing is, the scenarios the books would present were:

A. a skeezy guy walks up to you at a party and says, “Hey, girl, let’s have sex in a suitably grubby place and probably without any protection,” and you say no


B. your boyfriend (always your boyfriend, because apparently none of your Weird New Feelings could be directed toward ladies) is pressuring you to have sex and you ask him to wait until you feel ready. Do you see the issue here? You are asking him to wait until you feel ready. The implication is that there will be a time that you feel ready and that then you will have sex, because this is what people do in romantic relationships. Saying “please wait” is not saying “no”; it is saying “maybe later.”

And this is a Problem.

To be fair, there is one scene in the play which possibly could have been construed as Evie acting on sexual desire … in a different production. In the production I saw, the acting showed that Evie was acting sexually because she was afraid of losing Raul – it did not seem like she enjoyed or wanted it at all. If the playwright did not want it to be performed that way, she should have been more explicit about Evie experiencing sexual desire so that it would not be misinterpreted.

If Evie wanted sex for a positive reason, I would accept the playwright’s talk about how people should “push their boundaries.” However, given Evie’s intense sex-aversion and lack of any reason to want sex for her own good, I interpret the playwrights comments about ‘boundaries’ as “If you have boundaries such as ‘I do not have sex’, you should push those boundaries, and capitulate to social pressure to have sex.”

If anyone reading this thinks that I am bringing up an academic point – I am not. As an active participant of both an online and a “real life” asexual community, I can tell you that it is very common for people to become hurt and unhappy because they and the people around them said that it was wrong for them to avoid sex, and once they realize that it is OK to not want sex and to live without having sex, they become much happier. I would have included some real life examples but, unsurprisingly, people who have had particularly difficult personal experiences are reluctant to write about it online, and even if they are online, I would not want to bring such personal experiences into this discussion without their permission. If you want to find out about these kinds of personal experiences, leave a comment, and I’ll see what I can do.

If Evie is meant to be a person who actually wants sex for a positive reason, you know what would have been a great plot device to show that? Let Evie go to an asexual meeting, like the ones organized by Ace Los Angeles (to be fair, I don’t know whether or not Ace Los Angeles itself was active when the play was written, but I am pretty sure there was some asexual group based in Los Angeles which was active at the time – the play is less than five years old). If Evie met with the asexuals, she would have a) found out that she is not broken (!!!), and b) either found out that she does not want sex (and is possibly sex-averse and/or asexual), OR that unlike many people who go to ace meetings, she does want sex. Just as the playwright contrasted Evie with the Christian bride, the playwright could have contrasted Evie with the people who show up at asexual meetings.

Yet another reason putting an asexual meeting in the play would have been good is that it would help asexuals in the audience. First of all, if they did not already know that asexual communities exist, it would have told them that, and then they could look up their local asexual groups, or look for online groups. Second, even if they already knew about asexual communities, seeing ourselves acknowledged in media feels good, especially since good portrayals are rare (portrayals of asexual groups are even rarer – here is a discussion of asexual groups represented in media). Third, even if Evie ended up being totally into having sex, the asexual meeting would demonstrate that people who don’t want and don’t have sex are still totally OK.

Ah, I haven’t spoiled the ending of the play yet, have I? Well, at the very end of the play, Raul says he wants to continue the relationship even if there is no sex, and Evie says that she just might want to rip off his clothes and have sex with him. The End.


Again, the play gave no reason which I understand for Evie’s change of heart. Why, when she was so sex-averse throughout the entire play, and never had any reason to have sex which was not based on fear, would she suddenly have a change of heart. If she avoided sex only because of her fears, what dispelled her fears, or how did she over come them? I don’t get it.

Also, assuming that Raul is not pretending to be okay with a sexless relationship like he had earlier in the play … what changed his mind? My best guess is that he missed Evie so much while she disappeared that he decided that he is willing to have a sexless relationship with her if that’s what it takes to stay together. If that’s the case, I wish he had said so.

Anyway, back to Evie. Maybe Evie is a sex-averse demisexual who does in fact want sex with the rare person she is sexually attracted too, and it took a while for her to become sexually attracted to Raul, or maybe Evie is actually arcflux, or maybe … I could keep going, but considering the lack of context which supports such explanations, I consider them improbable.

The only probable explanation which I can think of is, once again, compulsory sexuality. Evie must finally want sex, because everyone wants sex eventually (except those of us who don’t, but oh well, I guess acknowledgement of our existence is too much to ask for).

The theme of the play is that we should get out of our imaginary world and face the real world.

The irony here is that, for many of us, the ‘imaginary world’ is the world where we are all late bloomers who are waiting for the “right person” to sweep us off our feet and turn on our sexual natures. A long time ago, I myself believe this about myself. For us, living in the ‘real world’ has been about realizing that we are different, that we aren’t going to be sexual like other people, and coming to terms with that reality.

That said … this play came very close to depicting this kind of situation well. Even if Evie’s last line had been changed – if instead of talking about how she might want to rip off Raul’s clothes, she is totally floored by Raul’s willingness to have a sexless relationship that she composes an awesome oral love letter to him on the spot (after all, he became interested in her in the first place because of how she writes love letters, so it would have been an appropriate ending), my perspective would be different. I would have still preferred having asexuality at least mentioned in the play, but I would not be saying that this play supports compulsory sexuality. I also thing this kind of ending would have better affirmed the idea it’s okay for people to be who they are and want what they want.

Irritating as I find compulsory sexuality, I am not particularly concerned about people like me who are already well versed in asexuality. I am concerned that some 20-something-year olds who have never had sex, feel very averse to having sex, and feel broken because of that, have been in the audience of this play. They may have seen themselves in Evie … only to see that, in the end, instead of Evie reaching out to other people like herself and realizing that it okay to be the way she is, or at least discovering that she can be happy and get what she wants as a sex-averse person, it is strongly implied that she was just a sexual butterfly who ‘needed’ to come out of her cocoon. And I am afraid that some of those audience members may continue to feel broken because, after having seen this play with a character who seemed so much like themselves, they still feel isolated, and they still feel like failures because they haven’t acheived Evie’s metamorphosis. It for people like them that I have written by far the longest post ever on this blog to date.


If anyone wants a good fictional example of couple consisting of a geeky young woman who does not want sex getting into a ‘relationship’ with a nice young man who is interested in pursuing sex, I suggest the novel Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson.


EDIT: If you are a theatre company who is planning to produce this play, I have some advice: reach out to sex-averse and/or asexual people. One of the top suggestions I have for how this play could have better presented people-not-wanting-sex is to mention asexuality – you can do this without changing the script! Include in your program information about local asexual groups (if any), as well as links to online asexual resources. You can invite a local ace group, if there is one in your area, for post-show discussions. Heck, if you offer them a group discount, I suspect a lot of them would be willing to buy tickets. Get your cast (especially whoever is playing Evie) to talk to real 21+ year old sex-averse people who have never had sex so they can better understand the experience. This play has ambiguity with regards to how it presents sex-averse people and their relationships, so there is some leeway in how a theatre company presents it. I think it possible for the producers of this play to significantly reduce the negative impact it could have on audience members who see themselves in Evie.

An Asexual Perspective on the play IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT (Part 2)

In Part 1, I introduced the play and Evie, an obviously sex-averse protagonist who may possibly also be asexual. Of course, much of the play revolves around Evie’s relationship with her new ‘real life’ boyfriend (as opposed to her World-of-Warcraft boyfriend).
Raul is originally one of Evie’s clients – he commissions her to write a love letter to his ex-girlfriend so they can get back together, and then decides, based on the letter, that he would rather have Evie as his girlfriend instead.

Evie, on her part, seems to genuinely like Raul, and is happy to start dating him. Sex happens to be a red line for her. However, her “best friend” roommate Kitty keeps on pressuring her to have sex (hmmm … this reminds me of how my mother “lost her virginity” at the age of 22), and Raul is clearly unhappy about not having sex with Evie.

At some point, Evie makes it explicit to Raul that she does not want sex, and he nominally accepts it … but it’s clearly not okay with him. He is also upset that Evie spends so much time playing World of Warcraft. They strike the bargain that, if Evie stops playing Warcraft, the Raul won’t have sex with her.

That is a disturbing bargain, isn’t it? The bargain basically says “If you refrain from this activity which does not involve me at all, then I agree to not do this activity which involves your bodily autonomy.”

Okay, I get it, having someone spend an excessive amount of time playing a computer game instead of investing in a personal relationship can be a problem. That said, it is much less of a problem than trying to violate someone’s personal boundaries. They should not be treated as equivalents.

And the fact that Raul asks Evie to quit Warcraft completely rather than just asking Evie for more time to spend together or to not play Warcraft in his presence … is worrisome. Why does Raul care if Evie is playing Warcraft when he isn’t around anyway? EDIT: Actually, Evie also has an (ex-)boyfriend in World of Warcraft. Even so, I think if that is what’s bothering Raul, he should be content with Evie breaking up with Warcraft-boyfriend, not tell her to stop playing Warcraft altogether. If he does not trust her … well, that is something they need to address.

A real-life example of a geeky sex-averse young woman who dated a young man who did want sex is luvtheheaven. Her boyfriend was very respectful of luvtheheaven’s personal and bodily boundaries, and never pushed her into sexual activity she had not consented to.

I cannot say the same of Raul. He never goes as far as Kitty – who had made out with Evie without her consent – but he definitely does start small sexual things with Evie which she clearly did not consent to. Raul only makes brief apologies, no apologies along the lines of “I crossed your boundaries and bothered you, and it’s not cool that I did that.” Then again, Kitty never apologizes for what she did to Evie, so I guess that puts Raul on ethically higher ground.

Kitty, of course, keeps on telling Evie how lucky to is to have such a boyfriend, and that most boyfriends would be gone as soon as they heard the no sex part, and she shouldn’t throw away her great opportunity and have sex with him already. Never does Kitty ask whether sex would make feel Evie happy.

The Evie-Raul relationship can be seen as an embodiment of one of the most common ways to invalidate asexuality or sex-aversion in young people – “you haven’t met the right person yet”. “You haven’t met/been with the right man” is the most common way that people try to invalidate my asexuality and disinclination to pursue sex (I am not sex-averse). People like me who don’t even try are told we should try, even if we reckon it’s unlikely to be worthwhile. People who do try this type of relationship and find it doesn’t work out / does not “fix” them are told they tried it with the wrong person, and they should keep banging their head against a wall trying until they find the “right” person. Raul is supposed to be Evie’s “Mr. Right” who will “fix” her sex-aversion. Except he does not, which is consistent with the experience of most asexuals and/or sex-averse people who enter potentially sexual relationships.

Like many of the characters who are cast in the “Mr. Right who will teach Geeky Girl who Does Not Want Romance/Sex that She Really Wants It After All” role, Raul is depicted as a mere ‘Generic Nice Guy’. Compared to Evie, Kitty, Evie’s online boyfriend, the gay Latino barber, the Christian bride, or even the guy with the girlfriend whose ass is “uhn uhn uhn”, Raul’s personality is blank. It not until very near the end of the play that we find out that he is a closet cross-dresser, which is the first sign that he is not in fact a Generic Nice Guy. By the way, there already is a fictional story about an asexual who gets a heterosexual cross-dressing boyfriend.

At one point, after Evie finds that a) Raul has an erection and that b) he thinks of her sometimes when he get erections, she suddenly tells him that it’s okay if he has sex with other people. Later on, Evie walks in on Raul right after he’s had sex with Kitty, and she’s upset, and she accuses him of cheating on her. Raul, reasonably, points out that Evie gave him permission to have sex with other people. This is one instance where I have to agree with Raul – he didn’t do anything wrong by having sex with Kitty under these circumstances.

The fact that this incident of Evie telling Raul that it’s okay for him to have sex with other people, only to get very upset when he does have sex with somebody else, is a sign of a serious problem in their relationship skills. She did not give ‘permission’ to Raul after proper reflection on her boundaries, feelings, and insecurities – she gave permission out of fear, fear that she will lose Raul if he doesn’t let him have a sexual outlet. This jump-into-nonmonagamy-because-of-fear reminds me of how these characters from a webcomic started an “open” relationship (spoiler: it leads to this and then this). Though Evie is ultimately responsible for this incident, all of the pressure Raul and especially Kitty put on Evie to have sex encouraged her to feel this fear in the first place.

On his part, Raul should have been more honest about how not having sex made him feel, rather than passive-aggressively hiding it and then pushing Evie to do things like give up World of Warcraft.

So, how do Raul and Evie resolve their communication issues? Answer: They don’t. Even though at the end they decide to stay together, nothing in the play indicates that they have learned how to communicate with each other better, or even that they know that they need to work on their communication skills. Okay, Raul does start playing World of Warcraft, and understands Evie better in that sense, but the whole incident about whether or not it was okay for Raul to be nonmonagamous and, for that matter, whether or not Evie is comfortable having sex, isn’t about Warcraft. Intimate relationships between sex-averse people and people who consider sex an important parts of their lives can work, but I can think of no instance when it worked without really good communication skills, including a high degree of self-awareness. Without that, I cannot see how Evie and Raul’s will work out any better than it already has.

Near the end, when Evie said that she used to think that love was all about using the right words, and that it’s not about words after all, I cringed inside. Perhaps they don’t need to use more words, but they definitely need to use better words, not less words. Bad communication is the path of hurting each other and hurting themselves.

I thought I could finish this in two parts, but it turns out that properly unpacking what this play has to say about sex-averse (and potentially asexual) people and their relationships takes more effort than I originally thought, so in part three I will address how this play says that sex-averse people are broken and shouldn’t respect their own boundaries.

An Asexual Perspective on the play IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT (Part 1)

Last week I saw In Love and Warcraft by Madhuri Shekar performed by The Custom Made Theatre Company. Overall, I think Custom Made put on a good production. There is a lot I can say about the play, but given the audience of this blog, I think my readers are most interested in an asexual perspective on the play, so that is what this post is going to be about.

For starters, here is the blurb from the Custom Made website:

Evie Malone- gamer girl, college senior and confirmed virgin- has it all figured out. Not only does she command a top-ranked guild in Word of Warcraft with her online boyfriend, she also makes a little cash on the side writing love letters for people who’ve screwed up their relationships. Love is like Warcraft, after all. It’s all about strategies, game plans, and not taking stupid risks.

Well, that’s what she thinks… until she actually falls for a guy. In Real Life. And no amount of gaming expertise will help her out when she finds herself with a non-virtual, totally real, and incredibly cute boyfriend, who wants more from her than she’s willing to give.

Based on this blurb, I thought the ‘confirmed virgin’ bit probably meant that Evie was so heavily geeky that she never got the social skills / confidence to pursue sex, love-letter-writing gig nonwithstanding. In other words, I expected Evie to be like Clive as described in this post about the documentary 40 Year Old Virgins. Nonetheless, I am even older than Evie, yet I have never had sex, nor had an orgasm, and though I have never played Warcraft, I am just as geeky in my own ways, so even though I was not expecting her to be an asexual character, I figured we’d still have common ground.

Instead, Evie is much more like the way Rosie is described in that post about the documentary – someone who genuinely does not want sex, is pressured by her peers to have sex, and feels ‘broken’ because she does not want sex.


I honestly did not expect Evie to be so much like, well, a sex-averse asexual. The sex-averse part is ridiculously obvious – she not only does not want sex, it’s really clear that the prospect of having sex upsets her.

It is less clear whether or not she is asexual, but she has an uncanny tendency to say things which sound like they were pulled straight off a list of things asexuals say before they realize that there are people out there who identify as asexual. At one point, when asked about whether she sexually prefers guys or girls, she says (I have to paraphrase because I don’t have a copy of the script) “I’m not really interested in either of them.” Short of actually saying “I am asexual!” that is one of the strongest possible ways to imply that one is asexual. In fact, there were multiple points in the play when I expected Evie to burst out and say “I AM ASEXUAL!!!!” because it seemed liked the most logical next line.

More than anything, it was Evie’s sense of being broken which made me think of my fellow asexuals. I belong to the minority of asexuals who never felt broken, but I don’t think it’s possible to have even a casual connection to the asexual community without being very familiar with other people’s feelings of brokenness. Evie uses the word ‘broken’ to describe herself multiple times. I don’t know that Evie is asexual – I strongly suspect she’s at least under the umbrella, but it’s also possible that she’s not. However, her experience of ‘brokenness’ is so similar to the asexual experience that I am sure she would benefit immensely from contact with either online or ‘real life’ asexuals, even if she ultimately concluded she was not one of us.

This is what I want to say to Evie - image courtesy of Asexual Archive

This is what I want to say to Evie – image courtesy of Asexual Archive

Also, I think pretty much every asexual in living in American culture (as well as a number of other cultures) is wearily familiar with the reactions other characters have to Evie’s aversion to sex. There are rehashes of the “Just Try It” argument. Her new boyfriend asks her if something happened to her to make her that way (though he did not explicitly mention sexual abuse, it was implied, and it’s a bad idea to suggest that somebody isn’t interested in sex because of sexual abuse). Her “best friend” roommate suggests that maybe she is just a lesbian and then proceeds to make out with Evie without Evie’s consent to turn her into a lesbian/bisexal. The same “best friend” roommate also tells Evie that a lack of interest in sex can be a symptom of hypo-thyroidism – and it’s pretty clear that the roommate isn’t sincerely concerned that Evie actually has a life-threatening illness, she just wants to pathologize Evie’s disinterest in sex (as longtime readers may know, I have some personal experience with thyroid issues). Evie even goes for a pelvic exam – which clearly distresses her – to find out what is wrong with her (the doctor does not find anything ‘wrong’).

One thing which is embarassingly realistic about the play is the type of ‘love letters’ Evie writes for her clients. Evie is an English-literature major, and she writes love letters based on the literature she’s read rather than her own experience, which, when it comes to romance, she doesn’t have. It’s embarrassing for me because, in fact, a lot of how I think of romance is based on fiction. I’d like to think that I would not write love letters like Evie, but then again, I would not bother writing love letters for other people in the first place.

One of my favorite scenes was where Evie was writing wedding vows for a Christian who has been waiting to get married before having sex. I’m not qualified to judge how accurately it represents Christians who refuse to have non-marital sex, but it is consistent with the things I have read about those Christian communities – that they actually think sex is awesome, and everybody should get married and have wonderful sex lives celebrating God’s gift (here and here are posts by asexuals who grew up as Christians about this). The contrast between the bride’s eager anticipation of her wedding night and Evie’s wish to not have sex at all makes it clear that she is not holding back her sexual desires, she does not have sexual desires to hold back.

And then there is Raul, Evie’s “real life” boyfriend, and the relationship they have. I will get into that in Part 2.

SPECIAL NOTE: I don’t plan to post Part II until the San Francisco run of this play is practically over (the final performance is on December 19), so if you are considering seeing it, I have this to say – it’s a good production, and it’s overall a very entertaining show, and as someone who has seen and read an awful lot of plays, I can say that it’s rare to see a character who is as much like a sex-averse asexual as Evie is. That said – and I plan to expand on this in Part 2 – it supports compulsory sexuality, and encourages people who feel broken because of sex-aversion/lack of interest in sex to continue feeling broken unless they can stop being sex-averse/start wanting sex. Overall, I recommend seeing it if you are in the region and have the means, but with the reservation that I think the play has a harmful message.

The Impact of Who Shares Your Residence

This is for the September 2015 Carnival of Aces: ‘Living Asexuality’

I think one of the biggest factors which determines how being on the ace and/or aro spectrum affects one’s life is who one lives with. The people we live with are often the people we spend the most time with, and they are even more often the people who get to see the more of our private lives than anyone else.

I have been fortunate that, aside from brief periods, I have only lived with people who are totally okay with me not pursuing sex or romance, and who don’t try to change my lack of romantic or sexual activity (specifically, after the age of 12, I have only lived with my parents and my mother’s friends for longer than four months). Getting my mother to accept my asexuality has been more complicated, but ultimately it wasn’t a hardship.

Suffice to say, if I were living with family who had more negative views towards a lack of sexual/romantic activity, my life an an aromantic asexual would be a lot tougher.

Unless one has the agency/opportunity to build a chosen family, who is in your family is a matter of chance, and the possibilities are all over the map.

Excluding family (which, as I said, can be all over the map), I generally think that communal living environments are worse for aces and aros than a) solitary living and b) living with a few people who you had at least a limited choice over who they would be in advance.

The only time I have ever lived in a school dorm was at a summer school when I was 15 years old. I found that my romantic life (or lack thereof) was under far more scrutiny than it ever was at my high school. This is in spite of the fact that I was with some of the same people for almost four years in high school, yet I was at that summer school for a mere four weeks. It might have partially been a difference in the culture between the two schools, but I think it was more than that. I think a large part of it was the fact that I had two dormmates, and that my classmates didn’t just see me in class – they got to see what I was doing 24/7. I think the fact that we were living together encouraged more discussion of dating, who we had a crush on, who do we want sex with, etc. than we ever had at my high school.

And of course, with greater scrutiny of my romance/sex life, it became more obvious and more widely known that I was different. And that inspired people, in particular my roommate, to ‘help’ me. Thankfully, due to the time limitation, it didn’t get too far.

In college, I never lived with my fellow students, which helped me completely sidestep the situation that Laura found herself in in college. Granted, I was statistically unlikely to end up with a roommate who would constantly have sex in the room, but I suspect even a year in a freshman dorm would have applied far more pressure on me to deal with romance and/or sex than I ever had experienced for an extended period of time.

My next experience of communal living was the hotel I lived at for a little while. I had a bit more privacy there than I did in the school dorm – at least I got my own (tiny) room – but once again, my lack of a sex/romance life made me feel different and vulnerable. One of the people living there assumed that I had a boyfriend who was living elsewhere, and I never corrected this assumption because I was concerned about what would happen if it was revealed that I had never engaged in sex or romance.

I’ve never lived with roommates who I could choose in advance (we did have boarders when I was a child, because housing in San Francisco is expensive and my mother appreciated the money she could get by renting out an extra bedroom in our home), but my impression is that people who room together for economic reasons and don’t share a school / workplace generally are better at minding their own business, and if they aren’t, it’s much easier to get them out of your life.

I also spent almost three years living in a studio apartment by myself. Being an aro ace was not at all a problem in that situation.

In summary, living in a communal residence where one has minimal control over who one lives with is usually more problematic for aces and aros than a residence situation where one has a high level of control over who one lives with (including living alone). It is possible to get lucky – for example, I happened to be born into a family which is okay with me not engaging with sex or romance. However, there are pervasive social expectations that everyone who is abled/healthy/etc. is going to engage in sex / romance. With the reduced privacy which comes with communal living, it becomes more obvious that somebody is not engaging in sex / romance, and social pressures get amplified.

The best solution, of course, is to eliminate the expectation that people will/should engage with sex and/or romance. That’s way easier said than done.

Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 3)

Most people would have just figured I was stuck with the bad math teacher and the bad French teacher. My mother did not make this assumption, and she thought I had no business being a class which was neither useful nor enjoyable.

Given that switching to another teacher was not an option because a) no other math teacher taught a class which fit my schedule and b) there was only one French teacher in the school, my mother asked the question: do I really need to take these classes?

It turns out I could test out of these classes. I took the final exam for the math class, got a C, and thus got into the next level of math class … which landed me with the same bad math teacher again. However, it was an improvement, since I was with a different student group who managed to make the class mildly entertaining with their sense of humor.

I actually didn’t mind the first year of French so much, since I started not knowing French at all, and through my own efforts to study on my own (at first with the textbook, and later with resources such as French in Action. The teacher mostly let me ignore the class and do my own studying in a corner, as long as was studying French. However, by the second year, I was tired of this.

Well, it turns out that I only needed to take 1 year of a foreign language to get a high school diploma, and I already had that. The school only told us we should study a foreign language for 2-3 years because universities required that for admission (at my high school it was assumed most students would go to university after high school graduation). But there was a way around this – I could take the SAT Subject Test in a language such as French instead, and if I got a high score, the universities wouldn’t mind that I only took one year of French in high school. And the SAT French test I took only tests reading – and it’s multiple choice.

Thus I got out of second year French, and since I didn’t put any other class in that slot in the schedule, I got to come to school at 9:20 AM instead of 8 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sleeping in for the win!

All of these experiences no doubt contributed to my cynicism towards formal education. At the same time, I also appreciate that my high school was set up in such as way – partially by accident, partially by design – to push students to shape their own education to some degree, rather than acting like passive receptacles of knowledge.

Storytime is over. In the next post, I’ll get back to the topic of compulsory sexuality.

Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 2)

I started telling this story in Part 1.

My mother reasoned that these Untouchable Bureaucrats are in fact mortal, and that they have offices somewhere which she can physically visit. Having once worked as a journalist, she has practical experience with getting interviews with people who are hard to find.

She did in fact find these bureaucrats, and she even got them to make a decision favorable to my grandmother, which everyone told her would be impossible. It was a horrible process – I think my mother said she broke down in tears once (note: I have never, ever seen my mother break down in tears, which demonstrates just how rare that is) but she did it.

So what does this story have to do with the concept of ‘compulsory’? Mainly, I needed to establish my mother as a character for my next story…



High schools, in California and much of the world, have ‘compulsory subjects’ – classes you must pass in order to get a high school diploma.

I went to a small high school. This could cause scheduling problems. For example, when I took Physics in my junior year, that was the only physics class offered the entire year. Yep, just one physics class. The class had sophomores, juniors, and seniors because … well, to make a long story short, this was practically the last chance we had to take a high school physics class, even for the sophomores.

Of course, that was nothing compared to the drama around Physical Education (P.E.) credits. I think, starting my sophomore or junior year, my high school actually started offering two P.E. classes for 30 students each. Considering that California law requires 2 years of P.E. for a high school diploma, this was a bit of a problem. About 30% of the students (myself included) didn’t need to worry about P.E. credits (we were automatically enrolled in dance classes which counted as P.E. classes), but the rest of the students were scrambling to get recognized P.E. credits.

The advantage of this system is that, because the school administrators knew this was a problem, they were much more open input and creative solutions offered by students, which encouraged us to actively shape our education rather than be passive recipients. One student (who, like myself, didn’t need to worry about P.E. credit, but I think he just loved bikes) started a bike-to-school club and made arrangements with the school administration to allow students to get P.E. credit for bicycling to/from school.

One of the biggest disadvantages was, if you got a bad teacher … you could get pretty stuck, since that might be the only teacher teaching that particular class, and even if there was a second teacher, you might not be able to arrange your schedule to get that teacher (especially since everyone else probably wants that better teacher too).

This is how I ended up with a terrible math teacher and a terrible French teacher. Which forced me and my mother to explore just how ‘compulsory’ these classes actually are…



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Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 1)

You don’t need a reason to climb up a tree at 1:00 AM. It’s simply part of being primates that we all climb up trees at 1 AM on a regular basis. It’s an expression of our monkey urges. That’s also why I’m eating an apple right now – primates eat fruit. That’s why we have color vision – to identify the ripe fruit by moonlight in those trees we climb up at 1 AM.

Oh, so you don’t climb up trees at 1 AM

WHY NOT????!!!!!

Do you have some kind of health problem which forces you to to sleep at 1 AM? Do you have a mobility impairment which stops you? Are you afraid of heights? C’mon, there has to be a ~reason~.

You mean you never THOUGHT about it before? Like, you never asked yourself even once ‘Why am I not climbing trees at 1 AM in the morning?’


One of the most quoted lines in this post is “under compulsory sexuality, you need a *reason* to opt out of sex rather than a reason to opt-in in the first place.” I’ve realized this line deserves its own post.

This post about compulsory sexuality is becoming really long, so I’m turning it into a series.

My default is ~not having sex~. It’s not a conscious decision I made. I never had a long hard thinking session, and concluded ‘I am not going to have sex’. Not having sex is simply the path of least resistance for me.

Deviating from that path – in other words, consenting to sex – would require changing my default setting, a conscious decision, and most importantly, I would need a reason.

I think many of you can see where I am going with this ‘What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM?’ analogy.

But first, an exploration of what it means for something to be ‘compulsory’.

*** TRUE STORY ***

A few years ago, my grandmother was in a real fix. The short version was that she was going to lose the care (medical, physical, psychological) that she needs to have a decent life, which was ultimately going to make her die sooner, and put her through lots of needless suffering before she got there.

How could my grandmother keep the care she needed? Approval from certain bureaucrats.

However, these weren’t any bureaucrats, they were Untouchable Bureaucrats. My aunt said she tried, but that nobody ever manages to even contact these bureaucrats, let alone get them to make a favorable decision within a reasonable time (and time was important – we were months away from losing the care my grandmother needs, and once gone it was not going to come back). To hear my aunt tell it, these bureaucrats were practically living on Mt. Olympus with the Greek gods, and no mere mortal could dream to ever enter their mysterious presence.

My mom had a different understanding of the situation…



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What’s so bad about being sexually repressed?

One of the most common ace-hate comments is:

“You’re not asexual, you’re just sexually repressed.”

And the typical reply of vocal asexuals is:

“No, we’re not sexually repressed, we’re asexual.”

It is true that many asexual people are not sexually repressed, and that asexuality exists in humans regardless of the presence of sexual repression.

But why insist so much that asexuals aren’t sexually repressed? Is sexual repression such a bad thing that we need to distance ourselves so much from it.

I think that when sexual repression is not causing distress, it’s fine to be sexually repressed. In some situations, it might be a good thing. Let me give you an example:

[Content note: reference to child sexual abuse]

Let’s say someone is sexuallty attracted to children. They understand that sexually abusing children is wrong, so they never want to interact sexually with a child, but the very fact that they know it’s wrong makes them very uncomfortable with the sexual attraction they are experiencing. So they decide to repress their sexual attraction – and succeed! They can now go on about their life without being constantly bothered by their sexual attraction to children, and even better, no children are hurt. Even though there are other ways to handle this problem (such as ‘ageplay’ – having a consenting adult pretend to be a child during sexual activity) I fail to see anything wrong with this type of sexual repression.

That particular example is extreme, but I think sexual repression might be helpful in many situations where someone is experiencing unwanted sexual attraction.

When most people talk about how bad sexual repression is, it’s implied the sexual repression is applied externally by society, not a tool being willfully used by an individual. However, even when sexual repression is being imposed by social pressure, it is bad … because of what?

Here’s the answer: sexual repression is bad when it causes distress/unhappiness. Then the distressed/unhappy person is entitled to addressing the problem. However, when sexual repression is not causing distress/unhappiness – even if the sexual repression is caused by external social forces – there is no need to “stop” the sexual repression.

Hey, I sound just like the people who say that sexual repulsion/aversion is okay as long as it does not cause distress. That’s probably because my mind absorbed their rhetoric and substituted ‘sexual repulsion/aversion’ with ‘sexual repression’. In my opinion, the arguments for accepting sexual repulsion/aversion work just as well as for accepting sexual repression.

Saying that all sexual repression is bad and need to be released is an expression of compulsory sexuality. If someone didn’t think that all people ARE REQUIRED engage in sexual behavior (i.e. compulsory sexuality), I can’t imagine why they would insist that all sexual repression is bad.

And it is because of the compulsory sexuality behind “sexual repression is bad” arguments that I think maybe, instead of saying ‘asexuals are not sexually repressed’ we should say ‘sexual repression is irrelevant to the validity of asexuality’.


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Why Are Sex-Indifferent Aces Assumed to Be Open to Sex?

The theme for July’s Carnival of Aces is “Sex-Aversion and Sex Repulsion”. I am going off a little to the side of this topic and talk about being sex-indifferent because, as someone who is sex-indifferent, I have much more to say about it.

NOTE: When I say I am sex-indifferent, I mean that I am neither sex-averse/sex-repulsed, nor am I sex-favorable. As is evident in this post, sex is such a loaded matter that true indifference is nearly impossible.

I sometimes encounter the implication, both inside and outside of ace communities, that sex-indifferent aces are okay with having sex, being in sexual relationships, or that of course the sex-indifferent aces are having sex. Once in a long while I see this sentiment expressed more explicitly. Even in the call for submissions, sex-indifferent aces are grouped with sex-favorable aces as one of two groups. Why? As a sex-indifferent ace, I feel like I have nothing more in common with the sex-favorable aces than I do with the sex-averse/sex-repulsed ones.

If I say that I am indifferent to playing tennis, would you assume that I am going to get a tennis-playing partner anytime soon? Or ever?

You see, all activities have some kind of cost. Time, for example. I am not going to live forever, so most people would understand that, if I say that I am indifferent to tennis or feel that tennis is pointless (and when I imagine myself having sex, my reaction is ‘that would be so pointless’) that I probably would prefer to do something which I actually like and do not consider pointless. Sure, if one of my tennis-loving relatives asked me to play with them, I might oblige, but it has been more than ten years since I have played tennis.

Of course, time is not the only cost of sex. There is the risk of sexual-transmitted infections. And the risk of someone getting very emotionally hurt, especially since, as a very sexually-inexperienced asexual, there is a lot I do not know about navigating sex, and my partner would be at high risk of emotional hurt as well (for example, if it is obvious that I am not enjoying myself and they take it personally). To me, sex is not worth that much, and I have ruled it out except for the few specific situations in which the benefits might justify the costs/risks.

On top of that, I am romantically-averse, which deserves a post or two in itself, but for now I just want to make the point that sex-indifferent people may have other aversions which might interfere with normative romantic-sexual relationship.

Now to answer the question in the title … I think the assumption that sex-indifferent aces are open to sex/having sex/etc. is an expression of compulsory sexuality.

I did not grow up in a culture of of compulsory tennis-playing, so if I say that I am not interested, people understand that I probably do not want to play. But under compulsory sexuality, if I do not have some kind of obstacle like sex-aversion/sex-repulsion, then of course I am OK with participating in sex … huh? I am aware that compulsory-sexuality is very harmful to sex-averse/sex-repulsed people and that people who push compulsory sexuality do not in practice give sex-averse/sex-repulsed people a pass. The point I do want to make is that, under compulsory sexuality, you need a *reason* to opt out of sex rather than a reason to opt-in in the first place, and the assumptions made about sex-indifferent aces are made because we have not provided a reason for opting-out.

Recently both the sex-repulsed and the sex-favorable have been talking about the ways they feel uncomfortable in ace-spectrum communities. I do not feel uncomfortable as sex-indifferent ace in ace communities, but I hope that in these discussions people will make it clear that many sex-indifferent aces do not want and are not participating in sex.


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Can we reserve ‘sleep with’ for when we literally mean ‘sleep with’?

Open Letter to Users of the English Language,
CC: Users of Mandarin (every point in this letter applies to Mandarin, and I suspect it also applies to other Chinese languages)

Dear Users of the English Language,

I know that I can’t seriously ask over a billion people to change the way they use English just to please me, but I still wish to make a little request.

How about we say ‘sleep with’, ‘get in bed with’, etc. … when we LITERALLY mean it.

As it, let’s stop using it mainly as a pseudo-euphemism for sex.

I have never had sex with anybody. I have, however, slept with people. Those are two distinctly different actions.

I have to be careful about how I talk about sleeping with people so that people don’t assume that I mean that I did something sexual with them. By itself, that wouldn’t be a big deal, and if that was all that was going on, I wouldn’t bother writing this letter.

However, this idea that ‘sleep with’ almost always means ‘have sex with’ ties into sexual supremacy, and as an asexual, I am not on the priveleged end of this specific hierarchy. It erases and discounts non-sexual interation, such as sleeping next to somebody else.

In addition to being asexophobic, ‘sleep with’ as a pseudo-euphemism is also, ironically, sex-negative. It supports the idea that sex is so shameful that you can’t actually say ‘have sex with’. This cocktail of sexual supremacy AND sexual shame is precisely why ‘sleep with’ is assumed to mean ‘have sex with’ – if either the sexual supremacy OR the sexual shame were absent, most people would assume that ‘sleep with’ is meant literally unless otherwise indicated.

The fact that the default meaning of ‘sleep with’ is ‘have sex with’ also ties into rape culture. Part of rape culture is that, if men and women sleep together, there must be sex, and that by consenting to sleep with a man, a woman is automatically consenting to sex. As a woman who has slept with men, will probably sleep with men in the future for convenience, but has no intention of having sex with them, this particular wrinkle is very disturbing.

From now on, aside from potential poetic metaphors, I will only use ‘sleep with’, ‘get in bed with’ etc. in the literal sense. When I mean ‘have sex with’, I will say ‘have sex with’. I request that you do the same.

The Notes Which Do Not Fit